Introducing and organising mass domestication through on-farm production of mondia is an ongoing challenge: KANFOCC, as the group closest to and including potential growers, is spearheading these efforts and has even registered a cooperative for this purpose. Mondia roots take 3 years to reach exploitable maturity – far longer than other cash crops such as maize (3-6 months) or sugar cane (c.18 months). As a result, many domestication efforts for mondia have previously been abandoned as farmers needed immediate cash. Further, unless the root is properly extracted the whole plant will die, which means farmers without knowledge or experience cannot always benefit fully.
“We had problems… but of late, since [UNDP, KWS, NEMA and the County Government] came in, we have relevant structures within our organisations, we have had workshops empowering our farmers and we have also had trainings.” - Paul Lumadi, Chairman - KANFOCC
UNDP, KWS, NEMA and the County Government have worked closely with KANFOCC to formalise its governance structures and build its institutional capacity to organise and monitor the mass domestication of mondia by smallholder farmers. Further, training for the farmers themselves has meant that they have the expertise to grow and extract mondia sustainably, as well as cross-plant it with other crops like maize or sugar cane to reduce the cash cycle.
According to Luke Otipo, Administrator of the Office of the Deputy Governor, farmers with experience can expect 3kg of yield per plant. The first major yields from mass domestication should come in 2021-22 – if the growth is sustainably managed in the meantime. Additionally, over the coming years Kakamega Forest will be extensively fenced and ecotourism efforts given new emphasis.
Sustainably producing mondia outside of Kakamega Forest is a challenge, but a worthwhile one: by domesticating mukombera, the communities of Kakamega can benefit from one part of their genetic heritage whilst protecting another.